Teargas as thousands protest top opposition leader assassination in Tunisia (PHOTOS)
Forensic inspectors examine the car of prominent Tunisian opposition politician Chokri Belaid, who was shot dead outside his home, in Tunis February 6, 2013. (Reuters / Zoubeir Souissi)The Ennahda came to power following the 2011 revolution when Tunisia’s long-ruling leader was ousted. The Islamist party has been widely accused of seeking to monopolize power. “Ennahda bargains and claims to want to expand the coalition, but refuses to cede any of the key ministerial portfolios sought by opposition,” an anonymous Western diplomat told AFP. The country has been waiting on a ‘long overdue’ cabinet reshuffle.Belaid recently spoke out against alleged attacks by the Islamists, targeting his party’s members, stating that, "a group of Ennahda mercenaries and Salafists attacked our activists.” The attacks reportedly occurred as a party meeting drew to a close last Saturday.There have been tensions over the role of Rashid al-Ghannushi, the so-called ‘spiritual leader’ of the Ennahda Movement, which is currently the ruling party in Tunisia. In October 2012, clashes took place in the southern city of Tataouine, during which the coordinator of Nida Touns political party, Lofi Nakd, was killed. Tunisians suspect that Ghannushi might have been behind such radical actions against political opponents.The fact that his son-in-law is the country’s foreign minister could also be fanning the flames of protest. “The fact that the members of the family of the spiritual leader of this Islamic ruling movement have prominent positions of power is one of other things that makes even people who supported the general tendency say “all we are seeing are revolutions to get rid of the Ben Ali family only to replace it with a new ruling family,” professor of international relations at Bilikent University in Turkey, Mark Almond told RT.
A picture taken on December 29, 2010 shows Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid. (AFP Photo / Fethi Belaid)‘Assassination of Tunisian revolution’Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has condemned the suspected politically-motivated assassination, labeling the death of Belaid “the assassination of the Tunisian revolution,” adding that, “by killing him they wanted to silence his voice.”Tunisia’s President Moncef Marzouki canceled a foreign visit following the news to return home. He denounced the “the odious assassination of a political leader who I knew well and who was my friend”.Asma Belaid, Chokri’s wife, told reporters his death is a catastrophe for Tunisia and their family.French President Francois Hollande has expressed great concern over the escalating political violence in France’s ex-colony.“This murder deprives Tunisia of one of its most courageous and free voices,” Hollande's office said in a statement.Protests have also been spotted in Paris near the Tunisian embassy, AFP reports. Some protesters even managed to get into the building.Two years ago Tunisia was the first country to overthrow its leader, following uprisings throughout the country, in what came to be known as the Arab Spring. The country has been gripped by social and religious uncertainty following the introduction of subsequent free elections, yet has managed a smooth transition to democracy up until this point.“There hadn’t been too much of violence, but unfortunately with these deep disappointments with the failure to make life better (life has got worse) and the sense that a trajectory that takes many people in Tunisia away from what they wanted,” said Almond.Tunisia is fast becoming a microcosm of the Middle East, where the dichotomy between an Islamic regime and the predominantly secular opposition is magnified – especially after this recent assassination, believes political analyst Danny Makki. He claims that in the current era, the Arab world is so completely politicized that even a minute change can spark hatred and mass outrage.
And because Tunisia's current Islamist regime is supported by Salafists, it has strong links to other Muslim Brotherhoods, further widening the country's ideological rift. President Marzouki, for instance, is a firm supporter of the so-called Syrian Jihad. “[Belaid’s] assassination was committed by people with close links to the government, though they deny it”, Makki told RT.
He adds that the move to dissolve the coalition could be to dissuade further unrest, but whether it will work is unclear as “there is a stigma attached to the Muslim Brotherhood government, whose policies are incompatible with the liberal, outgoing nature of Tunisians – this is a problem within itself.”
Makki told RT that the latest events are testimony to the backwardness of the Arab Spring in Tunisia and the Brotherhood's inadequate leadership, which has no tangible political policies or social and economic programs.
Screenshot from YouTube video / MegaBigpoopa (posted 6 Feb 2013)
People surround an ambulance transporting the body of Tunisian opposition leader and outspoken government critic Chokri Belaid on February 6, 2013. (AFP Photo / Feithi Belaid)
Tunisian people shout slogans during a rallye in front of Interior ministry to protest after Tunisian opposition leader and outspoken government critic Chokri Belaid was shot dead with three bullets fired from close range, on February 6, 2013. (AFP Photo / Feithi Belaid)
The body of Tunisian opposition Chokri Belaid (top R) arrives amidst tens of thousands of protesters as they demonstrate on Avenue Habib Bourguiba in Tunis February 6, 2013.(Reuters / Anis Mili)
Tunisian protesters shout slogans during a demonstration after the death of Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid (pictured on flag), outside the Interior ministry in Tunis February 6, 2013.(Reuters / Anis Mili)
A police officer fires teargas to break up a protest during a demonstration in Tunis February 6, 2013.(Reuters / Zoubeir Souissi)